The Art of Hospitality Leadership

17 Aug

The Art of Leadership: A shift in thinking?

The Oxford Dictionary defines leadership as ‘the action of leading a group of people or an organisation, or the ability to do this’ (Oxford, 2011). However, it can be argued that hospitality leadership expands much further than this. In years gone by, when economies moved at a much slower pace, man management was required for the success of organisations. However, in recent years, economies have become increasingly fast paced, more diverse and turbulent than ever. It is these circumstances call for a new type of individual, with ability to ‘perfect the art of leadership’.

Successful hospitality organisations, who maintain competitive advantage must seek individuals who understand the difference between management and leadership. Peter Drucker (1980), one of the most influential writers in management, highlighted many years ago this difference by explaining that ‘management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things’. Other management professionals such as Nick Obolensky (1997) highlight the different between management and leadership by giving examples such as:

  1. The manager drives people; the leader coaches them.
  2. The manager says ‘I’; the leader says ‘we.’
  3. The manager knows how it is done; the leader shows how.
  4. The manager says ‘Go’; the leader says ‘Let’s go.’”

Although there are many elements which make an effective leader, in hospitality, there are two which really stand out:

Being in the right place at the right time

‘Leading by example’ is a phrase which is often exhausted in the hospitality industry. It appears in text books, articles, magazines, job adverts and is given as some form of question or answer at every interview I have been too. So why is this? Well it is the single most important element of effective leadership in the industry. The hospitality industry requires its leaders to ‘be in the thick of it’, ‘hands on’ and always ‘leading by example’.

At University, I read a book called 100 Tips for Hoteliers and the tip which really stood out for me was ‘Be in the Right Place at the Right Time’. Every leader which I consider to be successful has worked out how to master this. They seem to have a fine art for being there when you need them. They are parking cars, checking in guests, answering telephones, serving drinks at the very time when you need help, all while maintaining a consistent standard.

These leaders work with the team when it really needs support and set a standard for teamwork and consistency. However, caution should be taken here to find a balance between ‘leading by example’ and letting your team shine. Work with your team but don’t interfere too much. I have witnessed times and been in the situation myself when I should have perhaps taken more of a ‘back seat’ and allowed my team to shine.

Inspiring others to be better than you

Effective leadership is also about creating and maintaining a solid foundation for success. A leader must understand the importance of those around him/her and neuter them to meet their full potential. Coaching and mentoring is the key to this and has somewhat taken over the notion of training in recent years.

Leaders with the ability to coach and mentor have a clear advantage over others. here it is all about empowerment and allowing freedom for innovation. The leader must allow for this to happen and offer guidance, advice and corrective actions when necessary. Essentially a leader’s role is to inject energy in the team and inspire others to perform.

Throughout my ten years in the hospitality industry I can only really remember a small number of leaders who had an ability to coach and mentor others in a way which inspired the entire team. I was able to learn a great deal from these people and take away the following examples:

  1. Allow others to be innovative
  2. Know when to help others and when to let others help themselves
  3. Training is telling and showing, coaching and mentoring is allowing others to show and tell you
  4. Coaching and mentoring is ongoing and never stops
  5. Don’t be scared of people who can potentially be better than you
  6. Find a mentor yourself, otherwise how do you know how to do it?
Summing it up

Effective hospitality leaders allow the team to thrive and take responsibility for providing exceptional experiences to their guests. A leader should ‘lead by example’ but know when to allow team to shine. A leader should work on coaching and mentoring the team to create a foundation for success. These methods will allow for a culture of empowerment and belonging.  In essence, effective leadership is ‘the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he/she wants to do it’ (Dwight D. Eisenhower). This is the art of hospitality leadership.

Please note: This article is published for information only and any recommendations given are the opinion of the author and therefore, should only be used if the reader feels they are applicable.

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Posted by on August 17, 2011 in Leadership, Management


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